A 14-year-old Mexican girl who was taken by authorities and sent to live in the United States was returned home Wednesday after DNA tests showed she is not the daughter of the Houston woman who claimed her.
The case of Alondra Luna Nunez drew international attention after a video of the distraught girl being forced into a police vehicle last week circulated in media and on social networks.
The Foreign Ministry said Mexican officials were carrying out a court order to send Alondra to Dorotea Garcia, a Houston woman who claimed the girl was her daughter who had been illegally taken to Mexico by her father years ago. Alondra’s family insisted authorities were mistaken but their pleas were ignored.
“It’s terrible that they could do this do you,” the mother, Susana Nunez, told the Associated Press at an evening barbecue in Guanajuato, where two dozen family members celebrated the girl’s return with balloons, streamers, and sizzling steak and chorizo sausage.
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Wearing jeans, a gray T-shirt and a silver necklace with an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Alondra laughed and hugged her brothers, cousins, aunts and uncles. As the sun went down in the hilly working-class neighborhood where they live, family and friends lit candles and recited the rosary on a sidewalk. Alondra wept as an elderly neighbor swept her into an embrace that lasted for minutes.
“At first I was very upset because I had never been so far away from my parents,” Alondra said. But she said she was optimistic the mistake would be remedied. “So after a while I calmed down a bit.”
Garcia, speaking to a Houston television station, said the first time she saw the girl, “I saw my daughter.” She gave few details about how she ended up leaving Mexico with the girl, although she said she knows many won’t look kindly on her actions.
“The people who know me don’t need me to give an explanation for what happened,” she said later to the AP. “Whatever explanation I give won’t change the minds of people in Mexico or here.”
Mexican agents assigned to Interpol took Alondra from her middle school in the central state of Guanajuato on April 16 and transported her to a courtroom in the neighboring state of Michoacan, according to a statement from the federal Attorney General’s Office.
In court, Alondra’s parents and Garcia each presented birth certificates and gave testimony, then the judge ruled in favor of Garcia, ordering the girl into her custody, according to the court in Michoacan. A court official, who was not authorized to speak to the press, said on condition of anonymity that Alondra’s parents didn’t present proper documents.
Alondra, upon returning to Mexico, said she asked for a DNA test and the judge turned her down.
The judge who ruled on the case said it wasn’t within her duties to order a DNA test.
“We as judges are only responsible to resolve the case with respect to recovering the minor,” Judge Cinthia Elodia Mercado told the AP. “We don’t do investigations or make inquiries.”
Alondra and Garcia went by bus to Houston, crossing at Laredo, Texas, with the birth certificate of Garcia’s daughter and the court order, according to the Foreign Ministry.
Alondra recorded a video, posted to social media, in which she looked calm and happy and told her parents in Mexico not to worry as they waited for results of a DNA test there.
“I’m fine. I see that the United States is nice. I don’t understand anything they’re saying, because everything is in English,” she said in the video. She said Wednesday that she was only trying to reassure her family and didn’t really feel fine.
The Foreign Ministry intervened to request the DNA test because of the commotion the video was causing.
Many things remained unclear, including who called Interpol from the U.S.
A U.S. State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, said U.S. officials had encouraged “timely processing of this case through appropriate government channels.” It was not clear what further action, if any, the department might take on the matter.
It was also unclear how the girl came to be identified as Garcia’s daughter.
In 2007, the Foreign Ministry received a claim stating Garcia’s then 4-year-old daughter, Alondra Diaz Garcia, had been taken by her father from the U.S. and was believed to be in Michoacan. This year, Garcia went to Mexico and said she had found her daughter in Guanajuato, prompting U.S. authorities to seek the help of Interpol in retrieving her.
Meanwhile, Alondra Diaz Garcia remains missing. Reynaldo Diaz is suspected of abducting her from Houston in 2007, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. A felony warrant has been issued for his arrest.